Contributed by Anthea Skinner

If you’ve been to your local shopping centre lately you might have noticed a number of parking spaces labelled “Parking with Prams”. These are usually larger spaces situated near entrances and in many areas, Parking with Prams spaces outnumber accessible parking spaces. Have you ever wondered why Parking with Prams is suddenly so popular? Have you ever been tempted to use one when the accessible spaces are full? Read on to find out all about Parking with Prams spaces and who is allowed to use them.

Parking with Pram: A Courtesy Service

Parking with Prams spaces are usually offered by private car park operators as a courtesy to parents who require extra space to make it easier to get their children in and out of car seats and manage their prams easily. They’re located close to entrances to help parents safely move children through high traffic areas. Parking operators offer these spaces to make it easier for parents and their children to use their services and purchase their products.

While there is no denying that making life easier for parents with young children is a good thing, Disability Parking Permit holders can find it frustrating when these courtesy spaces significantly outnumber Disability Access parking. It doesn’t seem fair.

Disability Access parking is a vital service for people with disability. In many cases, if there are no accessible spaces available a person with a disability will have no option but to return home as they need the extra space to get in and out of their cars. This is why using larger Parking with Pram spaces can be a tempting alternative for people with disability when accessible spaces are full.

So what are the rules around Parking with Prams spaces, and is it legal for Disability Parking Permit holders to park there?

What is the law?

From a legal standpoint, Parking with Prams and Disability Access parking are very different.  First and foremost, all parking providers in Australia are required by law to provide Disability Access parking. In contrast, Parking with Prams spaces are simply a courtesy and typically not enforced by parking providers^.

By law, all local councils and businesses like shopping centres and medical centres must provide Disability Access parking. There are laws governing how large these spaces must be, where they should be situated and the minimum number of spaces required (learn more about the requirements for Disability Access Parking here).

Parking providers who refuse to provide adequate Disability Access parking can be fined. People parking in Disability Access spaces can also be fined if they don’t display a Disability Parking Permit.

In contrast, there are no laws surrounding Parking with Prams spaces. Unlike Disability Access spaces, drivers don’t need to display a permit or provide any proof that they are travelling with children.

Similarly, while Disability Access parking is required by law, car park owners don’t have to provide Parking with Prams spaces at all. Instead they’re offered as a courtesy by shopping centres to make it easier for customers with small children to access their services.

But remember, while you can’t be fined for parking in a Parking with Prams space, these spaces are intended for parents using prams – and it is not unreasonable for parents to use this benefit – so it’s considered impolite to park in one if you don’t need the extra space.

Can I Park in a Parking with Pram Space?

Yes. Legally speaking anyone can legally park in a Parking with Pram space, but as we said above these spaces are provided as a courtesy to parents with young children so it’s best to respect that courtesy and only use Parking with Pram spaces if you have no other choice as they provide a safe and accessible alternative for transferring in and out of your car.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands that Parking with Pram spaces are available for everyone and many Disability Parking Permit holders have reported being harassed when using these spaces. We’ve outlined some tips below on what to do if someone harasses you.

Carpark Confrontations

People can become quite passionate about parking and things can get heated if someone feels others are cheating the system by using a benefit intended for others. Many people don’t understand the importance of accessible parking for people with disability or assume that there is always enough Disability Access parking to meet demand.

Tensions can be particularly high at peak times like Easter and Christmas when car parks are crowded and people are stressed. Unfortunately, these are also the times when Disability Access parking is most hard to find. This is why it’s important to keep calm and avoid contentious situations. Your safety is more important than a parking space.

Here are some things you can do if you’re harassed for using a Parking with Prams space:

  • Stay calm – explain that you require accessible parking and that you are legally allowed to use the space. Don’t get angry, raise your voice or swear.
  • Stay safe – if someone is making you feel frightened or unsafe, find a parking attendant or police officer or go into the nearest shop and explain your situation to a staff member.
  • Document the problem – If someone harasses you, try to get their license plate number. Make a note of the date and time that something happens and take photos of any damage to your car. Keep any notes left on your car. If there are any witnesses to the incident you could ask them if they would be willing to make a statement.
  • Make a report – If anyone threatens you, is violent or damages your property, report the incident to the police.
  • Make a complaint – The first place to register a complaint is with the owner of the carpark or shopping centre. It’s best to make a complaint in writing. Take your time and calmly explain what happened. If you’re not happy with their response, contact your local council or state MP.

Accessible Parking: Making A Complaint

As we’ve already mentioned, parking providers are required by law to provide Disability Access parking. If you’re having trouble accessing parking or are concerned that accessible parking in your area isn’t up to scratch here are the steps you can take:

  • Know the law – Familiarise yourself the laws about accessible parking. Your complaint is more likely to be listened to if you can show that the provided parking doesn’t meet legal requirements. You can learn more about the laws governing accessible parking here.
  • Take photos – Document the problem by taking photos of the area. If you’re having specific problems with accessing the space, for example, if it’s too narrow for you to transfer easily, ask someone to take photos or a video of you attempting to use the parking bay. If the area is unsafe, for example if you’re forced to transfer in traffic, don’t put yourself in danger. Your safety is the most important priority.
  • Make a report – Speak to the parking provider about the issue and tell them what changes or actions you would like to see happen. You may even like to include links to articles such as this one which explain the legal requirements. It’s always best to make these requests in writing and make sure you include your name and contact details so that they can get back to you.
  • Keep trying – if the owner of the carpark doesn’t reply, or if you don’t think their response is adequate, you can report the problem to the local council. If you still face problems contact your State MP.

^ At the time of publishing, no evidence was found to suggest Parking with Prams spaces are legally enforceable. We suggest that you check with parking providers about this issue to find out their approach to monitoring these spaces.